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Does everything you hear about food have you more confused than ever about what you’re supposed to be eating in a day? I know it can be extremely overwhelming with all the conflicting information out there leaving you feeling hopeless and lost when it comes to food choices and what you should and shouldn’t eat. Well, the good news is, as a naturopathic doctor and nutrition professor, I’ve got your back!
So let’s start with the basics. The 3 macronutrients required in your diet are: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. All three of these are essential for your body to function optimally. Now there are healthier options and less healthy options when it comes to all of these macronutrients which I will set straight once and for all. Read on for basic dietary advice and my 3 simple food rules when it comes to a healthy diet!
PROTEIN:
Main sources: fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, nuts, quinoa, tofu, lentils and beans, protein powders and the list goes on.
Now there’s all this math that exists to help you calculate exactly how much protein you should be eating each day, and I could bore you with that, but who really wants to be doing calculations when it comes to food? To keep things easy, follow this 1 simple protein rule: EAT A SOURCE OF PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL. Some of the benefits of having protein in every meal include; it keeps you feeling full longer so you’re not grabbing for a snack half hour after finishing a meal, it helps balance your blood sugar levels which keep cravings and energy levels under control, and it also plays a role in boosting your metabolism by feeding your muscles. Does this mean eat a piece of steak for breakfast lunch and dinner? MOST DEFINITELY NOT! Which brings me to my next point which is what protein sources you should eat.
The simple answer is, EATING A VARIETY OF PROTEIN SOURCES IS BEST. Here, we’re really focusing on what you SHOULD be EATING rather than avoiding, but I have to mention, it’s important to ensure you’re eating red meat no more than once a month. Red meats tend to be pumped with hormones and antibiotics and are high in the “bad” fats which have negative effects on your cholesterol levels increasing your risk of heart disease. Eating red meats also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and other serious illnesses including several cancers. On the other hand, red meats are an excellent source of iron and vitamin B12 (which is a good thing). There are several people (a few of which I’m sure you’ve talked to) that say no one should be eating red meat. My thoughts are, whether you decide to eat it or not will have to be a personal choice based on your own values, beliefs, and research. My only stipulation is if red meat is part of your diet, make sure you’re only consuming it once in a while and not as your main source of protein because there are negative health consequences associated with over consuming it!
So what does a healthy days worth of protein look like you ask? To give you a rough idea: For breakfast: include an egg, or a scoop of protein powder, a piece of chicken as part of your lunch, maybe a small handful of nuts as a snack and some fish with dinner – and voila! You’ve met your protein goals.
CARBOHYDRATES:
Main sources: fruits, veggies, whole grains, rice, breads, cereals, pasta, baked goods etc.
The healthiest sources of carbohydrates are of course, fruits and veggies. When it comes to this macronutrient my one key rule for you to remember is: EAT 5-10 SERVINGS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now I’m sure you’ve heard things like “certain fruits are higher in sugar” “someone told me we shouldn’t eat____ (insert fruit or vegetable name)” and blah blah blah. But the point of this post is to keep things simple remember? So let’s do exactly that! Like I said, eat 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies daily. Of course eating more vegetables than fruits is ideal but for simplicity sake let’s not even get into that.
Why are fruits and vegetables so important you ask? Well, they are your main source of vitamins and minerals, keeping your body working properly! There is extensive research on consumption of adequate fruits and vegetables reducing your risk of many many MANY diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and the list could go on forever. Now I know “preventing diseases” isn’t a top priority in a lot people’s lives at the moment (although it should be if you ask me) but, what if I told you eating fruits and veggies can help with your energy levels, sleep, mood, weight, mental function, digestive symptoms, etc.? Well… they can! If you eat 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies every single day for 2 weeks, you’ll be shocked at just how different you feel. Send me a message when this happens, I love hearing all about it!
An example of a day’s worth of carbohydrates? For breakfast make a smoothie (with your protein powder) and throw in some spinach, kale, and fruit, or eat a bowl of oatmeal and a piece of fruit along with your egg. For lunch add some brown rice and vegetables to your chicken or a take a wrap filled with veggies and a protein. For dinner, include a salad and some mixed root vegetables to your fish. Snack options could be carrots, celery or crackers with hummus.
FATS:
Main Sources: Oils (olive, coconut, avocado, flax etc.), nuts and seeds, nut butters, avocados, fatty fish etc.
I know the word fat can be scary, but eating healthy fats is crucial for your health and will NOT make you fat. I repeat, eating healthy fats will NOT make you fat! Fats are important for many reasons. They make up the membranes of every single cell in your body controlling what can go in and out of each one. Fats build hormones which regulate many bodily processes, and are important for proper functioning of your nerves and brain. They also play an important role in maintaining healthy skin.
How should you incorporate fat into your diet? Well my number one rule when it comes to fats is: DON’T BE SCARED OF THEM! Of course there are healthy and unhealthy fats and the healthy ones are what were aiming for here. Aim to incorporate a variety of the ones I’ve listed above in your diet and you should be good to go! Some simple ways to do this include: make and keep homemade salad dressings with olive oil on hand, add seeds to your morning smoothie, avocado is great in a salad or on a piece of toast with egg and eat fish as part of your diet. You can also incorporate nuts as part of a snack, or use nut butters or guacamole as a dip for veggies or fruit for example.
There you have it! Keeping it simple involves focusing on what TO eat rather than what not to eat. Follow my 3 simple rules and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy and sustainable diet.
#1: Eat a source of protein with every meal
#2: 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every single day
#3: Don’t be scared of healthy fats
Now keep in mind this is very basic. There is so much more we can do with your diet depending on your individual health goals and health status. If you’d like help with your specific dietary needs, or how individualized nutrition can be used for your health concerns and goals send me a message or book and appointment and I’d be happy to help. That said, I know having someone analyze your diet can seem intimidating but rest assured I’m a very strong believer of everything in moderation and am happy to meet you where you are at. Whether you live off take out food, are vegan or, eat healthily 50% of the time I’m not one to judge. Let me show you how minor changes in your diet can go a long way in terms of your health!